We value the opinions of our peers more than those of marketers, making word of mouth and social sharing one of the most powerful forms of marketing. Brands can seed these conversations with good content marketing, but getting consumers to share that content is a challenge. So how can brands get people talking about them, and more importantly, sharing their brand messages?

I recently had the chance to hear Jonah Berger, of The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, speak at the annual SXSW technology conference about his book Contagious: Why things catch on. He outlined six key principals for effective and contagious word of mouth marketing.

1. Social currency

The stories you tell influence the perceptions of others. The reason someone shares a product, brand, service, website, etc. is due to one thing: They want to appear a certain way to their peers. Too many brands want consumers to share their content, but never consider how sharing that content will make people look to their friends. Social sharing is currency; make sure it’s worth the price.

2. Triggers

People talk about brands when there is a contextually relevant conversation taking place. People talk about cereal when they are eating breakfast. People talk paper towels after they spill their cereal. Berger suggests developing a trigger which makes your brand come to mind at the optimal moment for consumers. This can be with clever marketing content or just simple association.

3. Emotion

Human beings are emotional creatures; we share things that prompt our emotions. P&G is the master of emotional content. Their Thank You, Mom video series from the Olympics has been shared and viewed millions of times. Dove’s Real Beauty Sketches video is another excellent example. Developing emotional content that resonates with your brand will increase the likelihood that your messages will be shared.

4. Scalability

The public nature of word of mouth is one of its biggest strengths. Utilize this. When planning word of mouth campaigns, always consider that whatever you develop will possibly be seen by millions, so plan accordingly. Scalability is very important for word of mouth marketing. If your promo code can only be used 100 times, don’t share it on Facebook to thousands of people (unless, of course, you do so intentionally to create urgency). Always consider how your message will be received by a large audience.

5. Practical value

Useful products and promotions get shared. When someone hears about a great deal, they tell their friends. The same goes for when someone buys a great product. Does your content have some practical value, like your products do? Lowe’s, for example, created a series of Vines illustrating how to accomplish basic DIY tasks around the home – educational content that provides real value to viewers and ties strongly into the Lowe’s brand. Consider this the next time you are planning a marketing strategy or product promotion. What value does this have to people? Why do they care?

6. Stories

Amanda was sick of eating the same old thing, so she bought the crockpot her mom had recommended. At first, she thought she had made a mistake. However, after just one delicious and easy meal, she was hooked on her new kitchen gadget. No, this section is not about Amanda, but it got you more interested, right? People love stores. Develop content for your brand that tells a story, but also carries your marketing message to the reader. The key to storytelling is sharing an identifiable message, something that not only pulls your audience in, but is also something they want share with their network.

If you want your messages to spread, you need to get people talking, imitating, and sharing. Keeping in mind these six points can help your brand to craft messages that will catch on with consumers and ultimately get shared.